Updates on Syria in the media

9 Sep


As we discussed on Thursday, media are acting as diplomat again with regards to the U.S.’s involvement in Syria. Over the weekend, President Obama announced six network interviews to air Monday evening, in which he would discuss his views and attempt to increase support for American intervention. Additionally, Charlie Rose, an Emmy-winning interviewer for PBS, announced that he would interview Bashar al-Assad. The interview is set to air to American audiences Monday evening as well.

Nicholas Kristof will host a Google+ hangout this afternoon with Secretary of State, John Kerry. As described by the Department of State’s Official Blog: “This roundtable discussion will weigh the United States’ response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Secretary Kerry’s participation in this event represents our ongoing efforts to explain why taking action to hold the Assad regime accountable for its violation of international norms is important to our interests and our…

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A new kind of terror?

28 Aug

My blog about the recent SEA attacks on the NYTimes.com site and Twitter from the class blog.


As Millenials, we’ve grown accustomed to metal detectors & the removal of our shoes at the airport. But a new threat exists, one that threatens our daily habits, our access to information, and one of the greatest innovations of our time: the target is the Internet and the attackers call themselves hackers.

Just yesterday, a source claiming to be associated with the SEA (Syrian Electronic Army) attacked the NY Times website and Twitter, disabling the news site for more than 10 hours and changing Twitter’s IP address. This article from the Guardian, who previously has been targeted by the SEA, describes the impact of the attack. Unlike the Chinese hackers who targeted the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, & the NY Times, the SEA’s modus operandi seems to be to draw attention to Syria’s civil war and offer pro-Assad messages. With the exception of hijacking the AP’s main Twitter…

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The Onion’s Op-Ed

27 Aug

One day after the VMA’s, which lead cable TV in Twitter mentions, The Onion.com [a satire news outlet] published a op-ed that quickly went viral. A link is posted here, and FYI:pardon the language. It’s called, “Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning, ” and the piece was attributed to Meredith Artley, the managing editor of CNN.com. (Again, let me say, very clearly, Meredith Artley did not write this. It is satire.) In case you were under a rock, Ms. Cyrus’ performance was not for the faint of heart, and I will do us all a favor by not including a link here, because I think it was sad. I digress. While her performance wasn’t my taste, it generated more than 306,000 tweets per second (more than the Super Bowl Halftime Show)– stats HERE. And then CNN.com led with this story yesterday morning. Not chemical weapons in Syria, or the NSA, or any other worthwhile, important stories.

Here is where the FAKE op-ed comes in. It was harsh, but important. I won’t sum it up, because I want you to read it, but it deals with really important truths in journalism at this moment. That is, your eyeballs, the clicks of your mouse, & even your attention span are all commodities being measured and traded by online advertisers. As I type this, I’m thinking of the class I’m a TA for this semester: Global News and World Media Culture. Hmmm. I wonder if the BBC or Al-Jazeera had any good stories about Miley’s twerking?

The real Meredith Artley did respond to the op-ed. You can read her thoughts here.

Social Media Fasting

27 Aug

After an extended break from blogging, I’m back!!

Since December (my last post), I’ve completed another semester of graduate school. Currently, I am beginning the third semester which presents a role as a TA, the beginning of my thesis, and work on a conference paper.

Over the summer, I did a “social media fast.” While this might sound a little silly, (and totally #firstworldproblem -ish) it is more daunting than it sounds and was eye-opening for me. There is an entire website, called The Social Media Fast, designed to encourage and enlighten those interested in social media fasting. For me, social media is what I study. I feel compelled to follow trends and hash tags, and take great pleasure in using tools like SocialGuide Intelligence to monitor Twitter conversations around prime-time television programs. Yet, for all that fun, social media consumes a great deal of my time. If we’re being honest, ‘wastes,’ may be a better verb. And this article, from Fast Company, really got me thinking. How are all of these “distractions” affecting my ability to focus on a task, read lengthy articles, or even pay attention to an in-depth conversation. So, I set out to go 7 days without using social media. For me, this meant Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. I needed to know what was happening in the world, so I still watched and read the news. And you know what? I survived. Unpleasant? Yes, especially the first few days. But when I started to think about what I was really missing, I realized that it wasn’t my ability to post witty statuses or use a cool filter on a picture of coffee, I wanted to know what the WORLD was thinking. What were they talking about? But, I read a number of books and kept myself busy, and it was pleasant. I found that my attention span increased in a matter of days, and the time; I had TONS of it. And then mid way through, when I was feeling really confident about my success, the George Zimmerman verdict was released and I has to work even harder, because all I wanted was to use Twitter as a social litmus test of sorts. Ahhh!

[Takes a deep breath] There is a term for what I was feeling, and a body of researchers are studying young adults just like me. It’s called Fear of Missing Out, or more colloquially, FoMO. A Mashable article refers to a recent MyLife.com survey which suggests that “56% of people  are afraid of missing out on events, news and important status updates if they are away from social networks.” YIKES! Internet addiction, much?

If you’re interested in measuring your FoMO, take this quick test. The results may surprise you.

Innovating Self-Publishing

19 Dec

All semester we examined the ways  traditional media industries were handling the influx of consumer created content. While certainly not the most popular, the publishing industry is not exempt from that conversation. On the way to work, NPR ran a story on Morning Edition that I thought was worthy of sharing!

The complete story, Self-Publishing: No Longer Just a Vanity Project, can be found here.

In the past, self-publishing has been seen by many as a sign that you weren’t good enough to get a real book contract. Recently there has been a growth spurt in the self-publishing industry. A quick Google search will grab 189 million sites. While many publishing companies may fear that due to rights issues and the availability of these publishing outlets, their businesses may be threatened,  Simon & Schuster have a different plan. They just launched Archway Books, an online publishing company. They aren’t actually involved with any editing, publishing, or formatting, but offer a number of different publication packages.  CEO Carolyn Reidy realizes that they must keep up with the changes in the industry, saying “We actually understand that it is a different world than what we do. We want to understand it, and if it is going to … be a threat to our business, we definitely want to understand it and also see how we can turn that to our advantage. And one of the advantages is, it is a great way to find authors, also new genres and new audiences.” Using Archway, they will monitor sales. So rather than feeling threatened by this technology, they are using it to screen audience response to authors and their success.

To me, it looks like a win-win. Budding authors get a chance to show what they’ve got, and the publishers get the opportunity to see an author in action before issuing a contract or taking a financial risk. Rather than using manpower to sort through manuscripts, they can monitor an author’s success using Archway and possibly offer them a contract from there. This kind of technological adoption and strategic business planning is to be applauded!


Slowing Down the Misinformation Train

19 Dec

After this week’s unthinkable tragedy in Connecticut, millions of people took to social network sites to gain information, share condolences, express sorrow, and create tributes to the victims. The role of social media news outlets was critical to much of the public’s understanding of what took place. However, this event brought to light social media’s numerous strengths and weaknesses.

As Friday progressed, information and misinformation was strewn about, passed along, shared via social media, and so on and so forth. The material distributed was questionable in nature and frankly the amount of “blind sharing,” I will call it, was entirely frustrating. On Saturday I issued a warning to my Facebook friends, to carefully vet any information they came across before passing it on. And yet, the same people “liking” my plea to be critical consumers of news, were the same people posting and sharing stories that were clearly untrue. The names of the victims were not released until mid to late afternoon on Saturday, yet dozens of images, stories, and posts were circulating well before that time with thousands of “LIKES.” One particularly upsetting story was attributed Morgan Freeman. Allegedly, Freeman attributed the cause of the shooting to “sensationalist media” who glorify shooters by covering their lives so closely. The comments specifically called out CNN and FOX News. On Sunday, a rep for Freeman denied that he made those statements, and since they have been attributed to a “Mark from Vancouver.” You can read about the false statements here. Obviously Morgan Freeman is a highly respected actor, and because he’s so popular, the masses thought nought about passively sharing his thoughts. Whether you agree with the message or not, (I will address that in a moment) the ease of adding an actor’s face to an amateur’s message, thus causing the spread of the message is frightening. When I first read the comments, I was skeptical that he would have been so callous and critical on the day of the tragedy. That being said, I did not share it. But thousands, and I mean hundreds of thousands did. People use these meme and viral messages to align themselves with an argument, and its much easier than formulating your own ideas–all you have to do it click “share.” I couldn’t help but think of the latest State Farm commercial, “State of Disbelief.”

It seems so obvious in this commercial that the girl is the fool. The message implies that the rest of us get it; the Internet is full of fallacy and we shouldn’t believe everything we read there. Yet, hundreds of thousands of people had shared the Morgan Freeman statements within hours of its first posting. It’s obviously not that clear.

Moving on to the message itself. The commentary claimed that “disturbed people” commit these atrocious acts because they are later glorified by the media. While it is true that often after a viscous mass shooting we know more about the perpetrator than the victims, let’s take a second to think about that. When events of this nature occur, our immediate questions are not regarding why the children/movie-goers/mall walkers were in their respective  locations. We know what they were doing. Our questions are more like:

What kind of person could do this?

How long have they been planning this?

Why did they do this?

Et cetera, et cetera.

The answers to each of these questions require the life of the individual to be considered and examined. If our media coverage focused solely on the victims, who are without a doubt worthy of our attention, we would all be left wondering why and how these people died. If the news just told us that nearly 30 people died on Friday and began to elaborate on the lives of said individuals, the public would be outraged.

Some other issues this week? The race to be first beat out the quest to be correct. the article, “Coverage Rapid, and Often Wrong, in Tragedy’s Early Hours” from NPR highlights the many inaccuracies started by traditional and social media, that were then spread and shared by the masses. The article quotes Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith saying “Coverage of such crises has not changed, but the way in which reporters construct it and readers and viewers consume it has. Now, he said, the assemblage of the news is playing out in full view and in real-time.” This was especially problematic for Ryan Lanza, brother of shooter Adam Lanza. For several hours on Friday, some of the most legitimate sources of news, CBS, NPR, The Associated Press, and The New York Times  were reporting that Ryan was the shooter, posting his Facebook page on their sites as well as personal information. The rapid jump to conclusions is even worse because as it turns out that he was entirely unassociated with the shooting, yet he was persecuted by the media and the public. The NPR article concludes by saying, “Amid catastrophe and crisis, the media is writing in pencil, erasing it and trying again. So in stories like these, the first draft of history isn’t even a draft. It’s just raw notes, waiting for rewrite.” We HAVE to find some way to slow it down. I understand that sounds like putting rain back in to a cloud, but whether that is critical reading skills or what, the rapid, passive spread of misinformation is just frightening to me. On Friday, Mashable came right out and said what I was thinking in their article “Covering Conn. Shootings: Let’s be Right, not First.” The article began, “Stop. Listen. Think. I honestly believe there are no better words for today and for how we, as journalists, must approach the horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut. It’s what we did here in Mashable’s news room. We stopped, collected and decided on how we could tell this story in a way that might offer insight, maybe even comfort, to our readers.” Mashable  deliberately did not report about Ryan Lanza, although they did hear his name. They avoided topics about gun control and mental health policy, both of which were only speculation at the time! “What’s crystal clear is that, in these situations, whatever information is put out there will instantly grow legs and run off on its own. Whoever reports the misinformation has absolutely no control over what happens next. They can’t run around the neighborhood and grab the newspapers off newsstands, though they often act as if they could.”

I’m not sure if the answer is education, regulation, or reformation, or maybe some combination of the three. What is certain is that while the internet has provided an amazing platform for the spread of information and ideas, we cannot ignore its shortfalls. Instead of running around the next day just updating stories and ignoring the millions of people who were misled and still sharing that misinformation, journalism has to find a new, different way to share their stories and fix the mass confusion that occurs as a result of their competitive nature.

From Soloist to Director

28 Nov

In the final reading for this class, Annet Aris presents the best analogy thus far for describing the shifting nature of media work. The role of content creator, she states, is changing from a “star musician” producing (performing) pieces of content to a “director” aggregating and organizing content. The idea that you can write well and publish your article is not enough. You need to understand how to include graphics, video, sound, and make all of that compatible with many different media platforms. Continuing the theme of music, she suggests that since content creation is no longer a one-way street, the role of a DJ, recycling and re-purposing information to create a new product, could be used.

We’ve talked in class before about the need to know a great deal of different skills upon entering the workforce and  then to continue learning. But for me, the themes throughout this course and this reading specifically seem to boil down to this: This dynamic industry is in need of some serious problem-solvers.  That is not to suggest that any particular industry is laden with problems, but rather to say the changes in society, technology, communication, etc. prescribe everything else must change with them. The industries need people not to fret that the methods look different than they have in the past or freak out about job security, but to ask serious questions about the best ways to share information and then get to work doing that. This industry needs critical thinkers who can innovate and articulate, discover and distribute, and adapt, adapt, adapt.  These ideas of flux, instability, and precarity are no longer threatening to me. I think if anything, they are a challenge; a sort-of “whattya-got?” push in the chest. The media, specifically news media, are not going anywhere. We, as socialized beings, will always want to know what is “going on.” As politics and social citizenry collide, there will always be a lot to talk about. In addition, the platforms to do this “talking” are only growing by the day. Despite Deuze’s best effort to freak us out and inform us that every media industry everywhere is dying, we know better!

Let’s talk about definitions and order. In our postmodern world, the barriers of all kinds of previously well-defined entities are crossing and blurring. For example, the definition of “family,” “small business,” or even “media” aren’t anything close to what they represented fifty years ago. Yet, while we embrace change and progress, we still seem to be obsessed with ordering and naming the unorderable and unnameable.  The final chapter in Deuze’s book, Media Work ,  stresses the need “to make sense of media work.” It seems to me that any efforts to characterize or classify the current state of media will fail and leave the classifier more anxious than he or she was to begin with. If only because we’re trying to fit our current system into the definitions of the past. I know that we fear chaos, and writing in and of itself requires order, but we will continue to be unsuccessful and anxious if we don’t realize that we’re putting a square peg into a round hole. It’s not the same. It’s not going to be the same. We need to start building a square hole and stop banging the proverbial wooden blocks.

And just to show how severe and innate our obsession with defining is, scroll back to the top and see how excited I was that we could compare content creators to “directors” now. Geez.

The moral at the end of this story/class is that change is evident. Jobs, technologies, processes, standards, styles, and people, will continue to develop (which is definitely a good thing) and what we must do is not freak out that what we thought we knew is no longer relevant, but get to work learning what we will need to respond to all of the dynamism. For me, it means the work is never done, and the learning should never stop. That’s pretty cool 🙂

So finally, the semester is almost done. After this blog post, there is only a paper left. Naturally, I chose to write about changes within the field of journalism and the industry’s response to those changes.



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